The Four Questions

I discovered four questions in William Glasser’s Choice Theory several years ago that have helped me identify solutions in my life, and I’ve used them to help others do the same. In public meetings and private counseling sessions, I’ve found these four questions initially get some laughs, but then they challenge all of us to think intentionally about creating more satisfying and productive lives for ourselves. As we grow in Christ and in wisdom, our answers to these four questions can help us develop the lives we want.

1. What do you want? For most Christians, their answers are connected to their faith and calling. But I encourage them to think beyond that, about their desires to be physically safe, secure in their relationships, and accepted and respected by others. It always makes Christians smile when I ask them about the amount of money they want (because, of course, everything is more convenient when they have more money), and how much influence they think they need to be happy. I also ask them whether they have enough control over their lives at home or at work (or maybe on Facebook) to experience the significance they desire. I ask them how much freedom they want in contrast to the amount they have and if their desires for adventure and fun are being met.

Asking people what they want always leads to engaging conversations. People come for counseling because they are unhappy with something in their lives. Giving them permission to identify what they want often causes them to contemplate their answers seriously.

Because we Christians are trained to serve Christ first, others second, and ourselves third, we are sometimes deeply dissatisfied but don’t understand why; after all, we are faithful Christians and that, we believe, should suffice. But if we are unhappy, dissatisfied, or empty inside, we need to talk that through in a non-judgmental setting or we might make some horrible mistakes. This leads to the second question.

2. What are you currently doing to get what you want? Sadly, most of us do things that do not lead us to the life we really want. If we live according to instinct or as a reaction to others, our lives often become the opposite of what we intended. So I ask people to realistically assess their behaviors. And that leads to the third question.

3. So, how’s that working out for you? This question always makes people laugh (or cry) because they did not come for counseling because everything is ok. They came because something is not lining up with the life they envision for themselves.

For most of us, some of our behaviors are helping, and some are not. I tell people that negative things happen naturally, but good things require intentionality. If we need to make changes, it actually does not matter where we are in life currently, what matters is the trajectory we establish to go forward toward what we want.

At this point we discuss how everything in their lives affects everything else in their lives — that their spiritual life will give them ideals, motivations, and power, but then they have to make choices that will impact their thoughts, their emotions, and their behaviors. And these four elements (spirituality, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors) can work together to get them where they want to go if they are intentional.

This concept is always a relief because it communicates that no one is trapped, victimized, or without power over their future. We have God-given abilities to move our lives in the direction we want to go, but we must be intentional. If we are random, we might be the ones creating misery in our own lives. This idea leads to the fourth, very helpful question:

4. What can you do, that you are not currently doing, to get you what you want? At this point, biblical principles come to life in a powerful and meaningful way. We always have choices to make that can move us forward and help us achieve what we truly want. None of us are ever trapped. Regardless of our current situations, we can make choices that will move us in a positive direction.

The inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the directives of Scripture help us set priorities and motivate us to improve our lives. But very often we have difficulty identifying the practical steps necessary to achieve our goals. These four questions can help us create a path that leads to the deep satisfaction and happiness we’re seeking.

These questions give us direction about who and what we should love, and where we need to place boundaries. The answers to these questions establish how we should spend our time, our money, and our energy. The answers to these questions tell us whether we need to receive an additional degree or certification, lose weight, exercise, or memorize the Scripture.

The point is these four questions give us a framework for intentionally achieving what we truly want in our lives. Our spiritual lives give us power and motivation; these four questions help us discover a methodology for getting there.

More next week.

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11 thoughts on “The Four Questions

  1. lee newton says:

    I am not disagreeing … but I have a hard time reconciling in my own life:
    “2. What are you currently doing to get what you want? ” with
    Lose your life to find it,
    take up your cross daily,
    etc.

    • Excellent response Lee. Thank you. Yes, our faith has to be superimposed on all of this. And, because you are a strong believer, those ideas are primary in your answer about what you want and what you are doing to achieve what you want. Jesus gives us the option of self-denial or selfishness, and that has to be decided individually. We are also commanded to be crucified with Christ, but we have to chose to do that. The reason I emphasize this is because so many modern Christians are so selfish because, I think, they never thought about it. Your response is EXACTLY what I hope all Christians will say. Unfortunately, the modern church is riddled with pain because it is self-centered instead of Christ-centered because most churches sell it that way. Thank you!

  2. Udechi says:

    Thanks Pastor Ted! I’m loving all of it!!!

  3. revboyer says:

    Great solid words of wisdom. Thanks for sharing. May God continue to bless you and your family.

    PS: Please pray for me and our church body here in Petersburg IL. Community Fellowship of Petersburg.

    Pastor Dan Boyer
    I only put my name here to thank you for where I am today. When I got saved at the Air Force Academy my life changed over nite! People at work thought I’d lost my mind, (I did over being infatuated with Jesus my Savior!). You and Chuck Swindol became my mentors. It was God who pointed me to both of you. Every time on the radio or at New Life, when the messages were given. I was awe struck! The Lord had put every scripture and message you both were preaching or teaching on my heart before I even heard it from the both of you. At first it totally freaked me out. For the last 23 years I’ve still been listening every chance I get. So when I say thank you Ted, I mean it sincerely. God has been and always will be my Father who art in Heaven. I praise the Lord for leading me across both your path, and Bro Swindols for a season.

  4. lonnacapaci says:

    Psalm 16:6; “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” This verse was my first thought in response to the statement: “These questions give us direction about who and what we should love, and where we need to place boundaries”. Nearly immediately followed this thought: “You need to set boundaries in order to stay within the boundaries I have placed for you”. I wrestle with this so much. God never lets it be all Him and none of us. He invites, no demands, equal participation from us. Equal used very loosely here as it would be impossible to ever equal anything He does/is. But it is a relationship that requires my active participation and this half of this relationship would rather that He do it all. I’d like to think I don’t have to worry about setting boundaries because, after all He has set my boundary lines for me, and in pleasant places! But my weight, my finances and my thoughts all would be contrary to this. I need my mind renewed by His word so that my thoughts can be changed and as I think on the things He’s directed me to think on according to His word, this change will occur. But it’s not just a one time resolution, it’s a daily appliance of His word over and over again. And being I’m human, I’m lazy. But I love God more than I love lazy and I may be the poster child for “God’s Slowest Learner”, but because He’s begun the good work in me with the promise He’ll complete it… I will never be given up on. Thank you for these nuggets, Ted. Side-note: I don’t know you from anywhere other than an HBO documentary on your ordeal a few years back. The thing that has stuck with me all these years, is the part where it showed you seeking the Word.. I think you were in a desert setting. You were alone. Your humility before God has come before my eyes over and over and has encouraged me so much throughout the years.

  5. Cindi says:

    Pastor Ted, I am also a William Glasser fan, and read his books MANY years ago. What I recall from his books: Stimulus .. STOP.. Think… Respond. Rather than Stimulus.. response. I found these to be 4 great questions to answer.. so I wrote them down and answered each one. What I wrote for the last question.. What can I do, that I am not currently – or sufficiently – doing .. to get what I want…

    Learn to be better at setting boundaries: Church folk/Christians, especially believe, that they have the answers/help we/I need.. BUT GOD ALONE.. has the answers for me to be in His perfect will for my life… and HE ALONE is who I need to focus on and hear from. Satan (so easily) uses church folk/Christians to get us off God’s perfect will for our lives.

    I need to be more humble, bridle my tongue, daily, Be continuously forgiving, continuously seek God’s presence, prioritize JOY.. Jesus, others, you (ie: me), and MOST OF ALL LOVE.

    Thanks for your blog! Cindi

  6. GB says:

    Please let me preface my response by saying that I understand that bad things happen to good people. I came through multiple major life events in the span of a 6 year period that have caused others to give in, including divorce, betrayal, multiple career loss and financial ruin.

    One thing I really like about this, is how we need to accept personal accountability for where we’re at in life. Sometimes our position is a culmination of bad choices, instead of God allowing bad things happen to us. As a matter of fact, I look back now to think about times when my situation appeared very dim, and I realize there were times that God had kept some things from happening that could have caused me to be in an even darker place.

    Also, we need to accept that it’s our responsibility to put in the work to make change happen, instead of just a desire to change. Too often, I hear Christians say “Why is this happening to me?” while they wait for God to change their situation. Now HE can, and has, and I’ve seen it happen. However, more often than not, I think HE wants to bless us with ideas or the tools for us to work ourselves into a better situation, instead of just giving us an easy solution.

    For all of us who are struggling, I hope these questions provide some framework for bettering each and every situation!

  7. Sally says:

    I was just praying on how to change cause I feel a bit stuck and I am overcome with fear. These questions are perfect.
    Thank you!

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